7 Simple Steps to Get More Value from Your Insurance Plan:

Let’s run through seven simple, cost effective tips and tricks to getting more value from your insurance plan!

  • BUNDLE your policies with one company

I hope that the insurance commercials have convinced everyone that putting all of your personal policies with one insurance company is beneficial; however, we still see many people that are reluctant to do it for one reason or another.  99% of the time you will save money on your costs if you package the policies with one company (be sure to look at the total plan’s price – not just the price of one policy!).  Furthermore, and just as important, it provides your agent with more leverage if you ever have a claim or renewal issue when an underwriter may be considering non-renewing a policy or rating the policy in a different tier.

  • Inform your agent of any utility and (especially) roof updates!

This one is easy – let your agent know if you’ve gotten a new roof, purchased a new furnace/air conditioner, or updated your electrical panel (more applicable to older homes).  Many companies offer discounts if you’ve updated these items and all companies have now started rating for the age of your roof.  So, it’s very important – and very easy – to make sure the age of the roof is correct on your insurance policy, especially if you’ve replaced your roof in the last few years!

  • Lower your comprehensive deductible.

Yes, you read that right, lower your comprehensive deductible.  But, won’t my price go up!?  Yes; however, it’ll go up minimally.  Furthermore, most comprehensive claims (animal hit, glass damage, hail damage, vandalism, etc.) are much smaller than if you’re involved in an accident with another vehicle (which is then a collision claim).  They are also much more common – which means if you want to keep filing claims, you’ll need to keep paying your deductible!  Unless you want to self-insure any damage to your vehicle (and at that point, remove all physical damage coverage from your policy) – it makes sense to lower your comprehensive deductible.

  • Increase your liability limits! PS – buy an umbrella policy!

Wait, won’t this also increase the cost of my insurance!? Yes.  But it will provide you with additional value and coverage at an exponential rate vs. the cost.  The cost of insurance may increase a few percentage points, but you can increase your protection by a multiple of 2-3 times.  Most people think they’ll never need that much liability protection; however, if you have to carry insurance (and you do in the state of Wisconsin) – you might as well purchase enough to protect you, your family, and your assets in case you ever do hurt someone or damage their property.  And, if you really want peace of mind – for less than $10/month (or less than 3 cups of coffee at Starbucks) – you can purchase an umbrella policy!

  • Additional Expense/Rental Car

If you are in a household where there are as many drivers as there are vehicles – it’s essential that you have additional expense/rental car coverage.  Contrary to what most people think, this coverage does not provide protection if you go on vacation and rent a vehicle (that coverage is extended elsewhere in most insurance contracts).   This coverage covers the additional cost of rental/loaner vehicle that you may need while your car is being repaired after being in a covered insurance claim.  For example, I hit a deer and file a claim with my insurance company.  I bring my vehicle to the body shop and they tell me they are backed up and it’ll be 2 weeks before my car will be repaired, but they will give me a loaner while my vehicle is being repaired.  You’ll be on the hook for this cost (usually about $30-$35 per day!) unless you have additional expense/rental car coverage on your policy!

  • Pay the premium in full, if possible!

Many companies are offering SUBSTANTIAL discounts if you pay the insurance premium in full.  We have companies that are offering up to 11-12% discount for paying the premium in full.  That is a considerable savings off any expense – especially insurance expenses.  It’s always painful to pay the full amount at once, but if the company is offering a meaningful discount to do so – it often makes sense.

  • Buy TERM Life Insurance

Yes, I think everyone needs life insurance and that it is an important part of any comprehensive and inclusive risk management program.  No, I don’t think the policy that your employer is providing is sufficient protection (topic for another day).  I do believe that TERM life insurance is the best option for most individuals.  Term life insurance is the most cost effective life insurance option and is the easiest to understand (pays a death benefit if the insured dies during the term of the policy).  Whole life insurance and universal life insurance policies both have their place in some risk management programs and may be the best option for some; however, for most people – term life insurance is the way to go.  But, Chris – my whole/universal life insurance policy builds cash value!  Yes – but it’s often at a minimal rate of return.  What we recommend doing is taking the cost difference between term and the other options and investing it with a professional – like Fox River Capital – that are experts at maximizing your rate of return.

Wisconsin boasts impressive hunting safety numbers

Wisconsin is one of the safest places in the country to hunt – and it’s not an accident, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

“Wisconsin has such a passion for deer hunting, and this passion extends from generation to generation,” said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. “Through hunter education programs and important lessons being passed down to younger hunters, Wisconsin continues to stand out as a great example of safe and ethical hunting.” (http://host.madison.com)

deer hunting

Experts account the impressive safety record to two items:

  1. The mandate of hunters wearing blaze orange in 1980

  2. Increased hunting safety training and an expanded hunter education program

The hunting incident rate has dropped to 4.04 injuries per every 100,000 hunters – a reduction of more than 90% from the 1960s.  Even more impressive, Wisconsin has experienced four gun-deer seasons free of fatalities (1972, 2010, 2011, and 2013).

As a friendly reminder, follow the basics of firearm safety – TABK:

Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.

Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.

Be certain of your target and what is beyond it.

Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until you’re ready to shoot.

These tips and some common sense will go a long way in continuing Wisconsin’s impressive safety record.  Hunting is a favorite pastime of many Wisconsin residents, and for good reason.  The scenic views are second to none and the abundant wildlife provide fantastic opportunities.  From our deer camp to yours – enjoy a safe and successful deer hunting season!

Does it matter what insurance company you do business with?

As an independent agency, we have many options and companies to work with.  Ultimately, this provides a great benefit to our customers – one advisor/professional to work with who has dozens of companies to choose from to find the best coverage and rates for you.  First, the customer needs to decide what is most important to them when choosing an insurance company.  Some factors to consider are as follows:

  1. Claims Service – Yes, different companies have different levels of claim service.  Some companies make the process very easy and provide great support during the process; however, other companies pay claims begrudgingly and can make the process painful.  This is one of our highest priorities when choosing a market for you because a successful claim settlement equals a happy customer.

  2. Price – Price is a dominant force in our industry and is usually a consumer’s top concern.  Price does matter but it is important to verify that other factors are not being omitted to create a lower price – specifically coverage (amongst others).

  3. Coverage Options – Do you have a unique risk exposure? Does the company you have your insurance with offer all the coverage you need?  These are important questions to consider when electing to place business with a company.

  4. Deductible Options – Many companies are increasing home deductibles and limiting deductible options.  If the company you’re with doesn’t have a suitable deductible for you, it may be worthwhile to ask your insurance advisor to explore other options.

  5. Size & Financial Stability – As an independent agency, we represent small, local mutual companies to Fortune 100 companies.  Size does matter – to a point.  It’s important that the company you’re with has enough capital surplus to cover any catastrophic events that may occur.  Furthermore, it’s important that the company allocates enough resources to critical functions of the company (i.e. customer service/support, claims, underwriting, etc.).  With that said, bigger does not always mean better.  We represent some regional companies that are AM Best A+ rated (financially stable) and provide good service, claims service, and pricing (if not better).

As always, it’s important to discuss these factors and any other factors that may apply to you with your insurance advisor to provide the best fit for you.  Every individual and family is different and subsequently, has different needs.  As an independent insurance agency, we feel that our flexibility and options provides a massive competitive advantage and most importantly, the best options for you.

Insurance changes for those saying “I Do” (or will be soon)!

Before you say “Yes to the Dress” – you may want to give your insurance representative a call.  It may be the last thing on your mind while you pick out colors, dresses, and flowers – but it may be the most important call you make.  Marriage changes many things – including your insurance contract – so it’s important to figure out what you need to do.  We’ll share the six most common tips for those who are planning on getting married.

  1. Schedule your engagement ring!  – The average cost of an engagement ring (according to theknot.com) is $5431!  What if the ring is stolen?  What if the ring is lost while washing dishes or doing lawn work?  Standard renter’s and homeowner’s insurance policies only provide coverage up to a certain amount and only for certain causes of loss.  Protect the jewelry by ‘scheduling’ the ring on your home or renters policy to provide cost-effective comprehensive coverage.

  2. Add your spouse! – Add your spouse to your policies after you are married – you may be eligible for certain discounts.  Statistics show that married people have fewer accidents than those flying solo.  Also, if you each are insured with different companies (or different policies) – you’ll most likely save money by combining your policies.

  3. Ask about a multi-vehicle discount!  – If you each own a car, you will be eligible with most companies to receive a multi-policy discount.  In some cases, it may cost the same amount to insure two vehicles as it does one!  When are insurance companies ever logical!?

  4. Ask about a multi-policy discount! – When combining insurance policies, always first check to see if it is cheaper to put all of your insurance policies with one company.  Many insurance companies offer substantial multi-policy discounts – which may save you bundles of money.

  5. Ask about an umbrella policy!  – After marriage, life tends to start moving quite quickly.  Home purchases, baby showers,  and babies all happen before you know it!  An umbrella policy is a cost effective way (around $10/month) to protect your assets from the increasing liability exposures that usually accompany marriage.

  6. Buy life insurance! – You no longer just care for yourself – you have a spouse (and possibly children) to care for and protect.  Life insurance can provide protection for a spouse in the event the unthinkable does happen.  Life insurance proceeds can be used to pay off mortgages and debts, used as replacement income, for children’s tuition, final expenses, and a myriad of other uses.  Protect those you love by purchasing life insurance.

Insurance is the last thing anyone thinks about while planning their special day; however, it is an important topic to bring up.  It’s also a great way of saving money and offsetting some of those wedding day expenditures!

Insurance is a cost of living (and doing business) – Period.

As insurance agents, brokers, advisers, risk managers – whatever you want to call us – we hear it all.  The majority of the time it is negative statements regarding insurance – mostly about premiums, bills, audits, etc.  We always hear from an individual or business owner that one of their friends told them how to save a fortune on their insurance or how to scam the system (see “recording employees as subcontractors”).  You hardly ever hear from one of your friends how insurance saved their lives – literally or financially – or how it rebuilt their home after a Hurricane Katrina or Sandy. Yet, the never ending search for people trying to get ‘something for nothing’ continues.  Frankly, it’s a shame.thCAYTMVMJ

Why does everyone want to save a fortune on their insurance premiums yet they are willing to go buy the latest technological gadget?  They want the social status of having ‘the best’ but are unwilling to pay for the best protection.  Individuals or businesses that pay the extra money for more insurance coverage should be applauded and advertised.   They should be proud that they have the best protection money can buy.  Instead – everyone wants less – less coverage, lower premiums, less headaches and so forth.  The best way to put your family in a position with less risk is to pay for better protection.

I like to use the example of people who pay to heat their homes (for those unaware, we live in WI and therefore, this is mandatory).  What temperature do you keep your thermostat at during the winter months?  I would guess that the average is somewhere between 65 and 70.  Why?  That is where we are most comfortable – not too hot and not too cold.  It also avoids us having to pay for problems that may arise – like illness or freezing pipes.  Why not keep the thermostat at 45 or 50 degrees?  The human body would be able to survive, but your life would be extremely uncomfortable and probably miserable.  We are willing to pay for that comfort – with very few complaints and very few questions asked.  We correlate paying for heating as a cost of living in Wisconsin.

Why don’t we correlate paying for insurance and protection as a cost of living (or doing business)?  My guess is that it is the perception that insurance is a scam, not worth the money, and that insurance companies make billions of dollars.  Some of this is true and most of it is false, but people need to realize the billions of dollars the private insurance industry pays out on a yearly basis to restore individual lives.  Every individual certainly has every right to under insure or not purchase insurance at all (except for auto liability insurance in the state of WI).  However, don’t expect any sympathy from your insurance advisor when an accident does occur and you don’t have proper coverage.  Would you have sympathy for someone who turned their heat down to 30 degrees and then complained about frozen pipes?  I didn’t think so.

As always, talk to an insurance professional when determining what coverage is appropriate for you.  If you are paying for the best coverage you can afford – good for you.  If you are on the other end of the spectrum, consider all possible outcomes and determine what you believe is in your best interest.